After the last excitement peace descended upon Plumfield and
reigned unbroken for several weeks, for the elder boys felt that the
loss of Nan and Rob lay at their door, and all became so paternal
in their care that they were rather wearying; while the little ones
listened to Nan’s recital of her perils so many times, that they
regarded being lost as the greatest ill humanity was heir to, and
hardly dared to put their little noses outside the great gate lest
night should suddenly descend upon them, and ghostly black cows
come looming through the dusk.
"It is too good to last," said Mrs. Jo; for years of boy-culture had
taught her that such lulls were usually followed by outbreaks of
some sort, and when less wise women would have thought that the
boys had become confirmed saints, she prepared herself for a
sudden eruption of the domestic volcano.
One cause of this welcome calm was a visit from little Bess,
whose parents lent her for a week while they were away with
Grandpa Laurence, who was poorly. The boys regarded Goldilocks
as a mixture of child, angel, and fairy, for she was a lovely little
creature, and the golden hair which she inherited from her blonde
mamma enveloped her like a shining veil, behind which she
smiled upon her worshippers when gracious, and hid herself when
offended. Her father would not have it cut and it hung below her
waist, so soft and fine and bright, that Demi insisted that it was
silk spun from a cocoon. Every one praised the little Princess, but
it did not seem to do her harm, only to teach her that her presence
brought sunshine, her smiles made answering smiles on other
faces, and her baby griefs filled every heart with tenderest
Unconsciously, she did her young subjects more good than many a
real sovereign, for her rule was very gentle and her power was felt
rather than seen. Her natural refinement made her dainty in all
things, and had a good effect upon the careless lads about her. She
would let no one touch her roughly or with unclean hands, and
more soap was used during her visits than at any other time,
because the boys considered it the highest honor to be allowed to
carry her highness, and the deepest disgrace to be repulsed with
the disdainful command, "Do away, dirty boy!"
Lour voices displeased her and quarrelling frightened her; so
gentler tones came into the boyish voices as they addressed her,
and squabbles were promptly suppressed in her presence by
lookers-on if the principles could not restrain themselves. She
liked to be waited on, and the biggest boys did her little errands
without a murmur, while the small lads were her devoted slaves in
all things. They begged to be allowed to draw her carriage, bear
her berry-basket, or pass her plate at table. No service was too
humble, and Tommy and Ned came to blows before they could
decide which should have the honor of blacking her little boots.
Nan was especially benefited by a week in the society of a
well-bred lady, though such a very small one; for Bess would look
at her with a mixture of wonder and alarm in her great blue eyes
when the hoyden screamed and romped; and she shrunk from her
as if she thought her a sort of wild animal. Warm-hearted Nan felt
this very much. She said at first, "Pooh! I don’t care!" But she did
care, and was so hurt when Bess said, "I love my tuzzin best, tause
she is twiet," that she shook poor Daisy till her teeth chattered in
her head, and then fled to the barn to cry dismally. In that general
refuge for perturbed spirits she found comfort and good counsel
from some source or other. Perhaps the swallows from their
mud-built nests overhead twittered her a little lecture on the beauty
of gentleness. However that might have been, she came out quite
subdued, and carefully searched the orchard for a certain kind of
early apple that Bess liked because it was sweet and small and
rosy. Armed with this peace-offering, she approached the little
Princess, and humbly presented it. To her great joy it was
graciously accepted, and when Daisy gave Nan a forgiving kiss,
Bess did likewise, as if she felt that she had been too severe, and
desired to apologize. After this they played pleasantly together,
and Nan enjoyed the royal favor for days. To be sure she felt a
little like a wild bird in a pretty cage at first, and occasionally had
to slip out to stretch her wings in a long flight, or to sing at the top
of her voice, where neither would disturb the plump turtle-dove
Daisy, nor the dainty golden canary Bess. But it did her good; for,
seeing how every one loved the little Princess for her small graces
and virtues, she began to imitate her, because Nan wanted much
love, and tried hard to win it.
Not a boy in the house but felt the pretty child’s influence, and was
improved by it without exactly knowing how or why, for babies
can work miracles in the hearts that love them. Poor Billy found
infinite satisfaction in staring at her, and though she did not like it
she permitted without a frown, after she had been made to
understand that he was not quite like the others, and on that
account must be more kindly treated. Dick and Dolly
overwhelmed her with willow whistles, the only thing they knew
how to make, and she accepted but never used them. Rob served
her like a little lover, and Teddy followed her like a pet dog. Jack
she did not like, because he was afflicted with warts and had a
harsh voice. Stuffy displeased her because he did not eat tidily, and
George tried hard not to gobble, that he might not disgust the
dainty little lady opposite. Ned was banished from court in utter
disgrace when he was discovered tormenting some unhappy
field-mice. Goldilocks could never forget the sad spectacle, and
retired behind her veil when he approached, waving him away
with an imperious little hand, and crying, in a tone of mingled
grief and anger,
"No, I tarn’t love him; he tut the poor mouses’ little tails off, and
Daisy promptly abdicated when Bess came, and took the humble
post of chief cook, while Nan was first maid of honor; Emil was
chancellor of the exchequer, and spent the public monies lavishly
in getting up spectacles that cost whole ninepences. Franz was
prime minister, and directed her affairs of state, planned royal
progresses through the kingdom, and kept foreign powers in order.
Demi was her philosopher, and fared much better than such
gentlemen usually do among crowned heads. Dan was her standing
army, and defended her territories gallantly; Tommy was court
fool, and Nat a tuneful Rizzio to this innocent little Mary.
Uncle Fritz and Aunt Jo enjoyed this peaceful episode, and looked
on at the pretty play in which the young folk unconsciously
imitated their elders, without adding the tragedy that is so apt to
spoil the dramas acted on the larger stage.
"They teach us quite as much as we teach them," said Mr. Bhaer.
"Bless the dears! they never guess how many hints they give us as
to the best way of managing them," answered Mrs. Jo.
"I think you were right about the good effect of having girls among
the boys. Nan has stirred up Daisy, and Bess is teaching the little
bears how to behave better than we can. If this reformation goes on
as it has begun, I shall soon feel like Dr. Blimber with his model
young gentlemen," said Professor, laughing, as he saw Tommy not
only remove his own hat, but knock off Ned’s also, as they entered
the hall where the Princess was taking a ride on the rocking-horse,
attended by Rob and Teddy astride of chairs, and playing gallant
knights to the best of their ability.
"You will never be a Blimber, Fritz, you couldn’t do it if you tried;
and our boys will never submit to the forcing process of that
famous hot-bed. No fear that they will be too elegant: American
boys like liberty too well. But good manners they cannot fail to
have, if we give them the kindly spirit that shines through the
simplest demeanor, making it courteous and cordial, like yours,
my dear old boy."
"Tut! tut! we will not compliment; for if I begin you will run away,
and I have a wish to enjoy this happy half hour to the end;" yet Mr.
Bhaer looked pleased with the compliment, for it was true, and
Mrs. Jo felt that she had received the best her husband could give
her, by saying that he found his truest rest and happiness in her
"To return to the children: I have just had another proof of
Goldilocks’ good influence," said Mrs. Jo, drawing her chair nearer
the sofa, where the Professor lay resting after a long day’s work in
his various gardens. "Nan hates sewing, but for love of Bess has
been toiling half the afternoon over a remarkable bag in which to
present a dozen of our love-apples to her idol when she goes. I
praised her for it, and she said, in her quick way, ‘I like to sew for
other people; it is stupid sewing for myself.’ I took the hint, and
shall give her some little shirts and aprons for Mrs. Carney’s
children. She is so generous, she will sew her fingers sore for
them, and I shall not have to make a task of it."
"But needlework is not a fashionable accomplishment, my dear."
"Sorry for it. My girls shall learn all I can teach them about it, even
if they give up the Latin, Algebra, and half-a-dozen ologies it is
considered necessary for girls to muddle their poor brains over
now-a-days. Amy means to make Bess an accomplished woman,
but the dear’s mite of a forefinger has little pricks on it already,
and her mother has several specimens of needlework which she
values more than the clay bird without a bill, that filled Laurie
with such pride when Bess made it."
"I also have proof of the Princess’s power," said Mrs. Bhaer, after
he had watched Mrs. Jo sew on a button with an air of scorn for
the whole system of fashionable education. "Jack is so unwilling to
be classed with Stuffy and Ned, as distasteful to Bess, that he came
to me a little while ago, and asked me to touch his warts with
caustic. I have often proposed it, and he never would consent; but
now he bore the smart manfully, and consoles his present
discomfort by hopes of future favor, when he can show her
fastidious ladyship a smooth hand."
Mrs. Bhaer laughed at the story, and just then Stuffy came in to ask
if he might give Goldilocks some of the bonbons his mother had
"She is not allowed to eat sweeties; but if you like to give her the
pretty box with the pink sugar-rose in it, she would like it very
much," said Mrs. Jo, unwilling to spoil this unusual piece of
self-denial, for the "fat boy" seldom offered to share his
"Won’t she eat it? I shouldn’t like to make her sick," said Stuffy,
eyeing the delicate sweetmeat lovingly, yet putting it into the box.
"Oh, no, she won’t touch it, if I tell her it is to look at, not to eat.
She will keep it for weeks, and never think of tasting it. Can you
do as much?"
"I should hope so! I’m ever so much older than she is," cried
"Well, suppose we try. Here, put your bonbons in this bag, and see
how long you can keep them. Let me count two hearts, four red
fishes, three barley-sugar horses, nine almonds, and a dozen
chocolate drops. Do you agree to that?" asked sly Mrs. Jo, popping
the sweeties into her little spool-bag.
"Yes," said Stuffy, with a sigh; and pocketing the forbidden fruit,
he went away to give Bess the present, that won a smile from her,
and permission to escort her round the garden.
"Poor Stuffy’s heart has really got the better of his stomach at last,
and his efforts will be much encouraged by the rewards Bess gives
him," said Mrs. Jo.
"Happy is the man who can put temptation in his pocket and learn
self-denial from so sweet a little teacher!" added Mr. Bhaer, as the
children passed the window, Stuffy’s fat face full of placid
satisfaction, and Goldilocks surveying her sugar-rose with polite
interest, though she would have preferred a real flower with a
When her father came to take her home, a universal wail arose,
and the parting gifts showered upon her increased her luggage to
such an extent that Mr. Laurie proposed having out the big wagon
to take it into town. Every one had given her something; and it was
found difficult to pack white mice, cake, a parcel of shells, apples,
a rabbit kicking violently in a bag, a large cabbage for his
refreshment, a bottle of minnows, and a mammoth bouquet. The
farewell scene was moving, for the Princess sat upon the
hall-table, surrounded by her subjects. She kissed her cousins, and
held out her hand to the other boys, who shook it gently with
various soft speeches, for they were taught not to be ashamed of
showing their emotions.
"Come again soon, little dear," whispered Dan, fastening his best
green-and-gold beetle in her hat.
"Don’t forget me, Princess, whatever you do," said the engaging
Tommy, taking a last stroke of the pretty hair.
"I am coming to your house next week, and then I shall see you,
Bess," added Nat, as if he found consolation in the thought.
"Do shake hands now," cried Jack, offering a smooth paw.
"Here are two nice new ones to remember us by," said Dick and
Dolly, presenting fresh whistles, quite unconscious that seven old
ones had been privately deposited in the kitchen-stove.
"My little precious! I shall work you a book-mark right away, and
you must keep it always," said Nan, with a warm embrace.
But of all the farewells, poor Billy’s was the most pathetic, for the
thought that she was really going became so unbearable that he
cast himself down before her, hugging her little blue boots and
blubbering despairingly, "Don’t go away! oh, don’t!" Goldilocks
was so touched by this burst of feeling, that she leaned over and
lifting the poor lad’s head, said, in her soft, little voice,
"Don’t cry, poor Billy! I will tiss you and tum adain soon."
This promise consoled Billy, and he fell back beaming with pride
at the unusual honor conferred upon him.
"Me too! me too!" clamored Dick and Dolly, feeling that their
devotion deserved some return. The others looked as if they would
like to join in the cry; and something in the kind, merry faces
about her moved the Princess to stretch out her arms and say, with
"I will tiss evvybody!"
Like a swarm of bees about a very sweet flower, the affectionate
lads surrounded their pretty playmate, and kissed her till she
looked like a little rose, not roughly, but so enthusiastically that
nothing but the crown of her hat was visible for a moment. Then
her father rescued her, and she drove away still smiling and
waving her hands, while the boys sat on the fence screaming like a
flock of guinea-fowls, "Come back! come back!" till she was out
They all missed her, and each dimly felt that he was better for
having known a creature so lovely, delicate, and sweet; for little
Bess appealed to the chivalrous instinct in them as something to
love, admire, and protect with a tender sort of reverence. Many a
man remembers some pretty child who has made a place in his
heart and kept her memory alive by the simple magic of her
innocence; these little men were just learning to feel this power,
and to love it for its gentle influence, not ashamed to let the small
hand lead them, nor to own their loyalty to womankind, even in